Resident finishes first in writing marathon

Submission in national event was Vt.’s wordiest

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Mark Twain once advised writers that “when you catch an adjective, kill it.” But Williston resident Steve Mount couldn’t delete adjectives – or nouns or verbs or any other type of word – if he was to finish a novel in 30 days.

Mount recently participated in the National Novel Writing Month, also called NaNoWriMo. Participants attempted to write a 50,000-word novel during November. Those who did were declared winners.

For Mount, that prodigious output came easily. By mid-month, he had polished off his first novel, equivalent to a 175-page book. He went on to write another novel and wound up with 101,932 words, the most among 183 participants in Vermont.

“I’ve written small things before, but nothing approaching this length,” he said. “I actually wrote two novels. Whether they are any good is another story.”

Quality was beside the point, according to the event’s Web site.

“Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output,” the site explained. “It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, write on the fly.

“Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing,” the site says. “By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.”

Mount said he built his writing routine around the fact that he had little else to do after work during the month. He and his family were staying at his parents’ house while they moved from one Williston home to another.

That meant Mount did not have to cook, clean or shop because his parents took care of those tasks. So he sat down with his laptop computer each night and wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more.

The first night, he pounded out 3,000 words. “I’m thinking to myself there’s no way I can keep this up,” Mount said.

But he did, completing the first novel, “The Story of Jack” in about two weeks. He said it is about a man trying to come to terms with the death of his entire family.

He finished the second novel, “Spade,” about a man who wakes up on the bathroom floor with a broken nose and no recollection of what happened, on Nov. 29.

He said he edited the first novel to clean up the plot. The second piece was submitted virtually as is. Neither story was edited for brevity.

Of the Vermont participants, only one approached Mount’s word count. Someone from Norwich with the screen name Damkianna produced 91,381 words. The next closest total was 56,623.

Mount was among nearly 80,000 writers who participated in the National Novel Writing Month. Collectively they produced nearly a billion words.

Those who produced 50,000 words received a certificate, an icon on the event’s Web site and bragging rights.

Mount, 38, is computer programmer for GE Healthcare, the company that bought IDX Systems. He has a wife, Karen, and three children.

Mount has some writing experience, having served as a reporter and an editor of the Vermont Cynic, a student newspaper at the University of Vermont. But he had never written anything longer than a term paper before completing his novels last month.

Among his favorite writers is Stephen King, who is also known for his considerable output. The famous author crossed Mount’s mind as he was writing his novels.

“I said to myself, ‘What would Stephen King have done?’” Mount said.